Process, not perfection: Morgan’s experience in Soap Making with Allison Haigler

An image collage. On the left, a young woman smiles at the camera and proudly shows off two of her bars of soap. On the right, an artistic photo of the bars of soap she made.

One of the many perks of working at the Folk School is the ability to take a “free” class each year. During this week of immersive learning, the Folk School covers your tuition and compensates you for your time away from daily responsibilities. For us, it’s crucial that staff can have the #FolkSchoolExperience, whether it’s their first time in the studio or part of a yearly tradition.

Our weeklong classes are akin to a learning vacation, and with over 800 offerings a year, the hardest part is often deciding which one you’ll take! Below, our Events and Volunteers Coordinator Morgan Budzinski recounts her week taking her first class alongside her husband, Alex. Happy reading! 

Growing up in Murphy, I attended contra dances and many Fall Festivals at the Folk School but never had the privilege of taking a class. One perk of being a Folk School employee is getting to take a free week-long class, a benefit that’s been on my mind since I started working here in March as the school’s Events and Volunteers Manager. I have never been particularly crafty, but I was excited to explore my creative side and experience the Folk School through a student’s eyes. 

My husband Alex, who moved here from Santa Monica, California with me, had some time off from work and was able to join me for a class during Holiday in the Mountains week. During this theme week, classes have a festive spirit, and they can help you make handmade holiday gifts. Keith House Community Room is beautifully decorated and hosts beloved holiday activities each evening once classes are over. 

Alex and Morgan smile for the camera while sitting inside Keith House for orientation
Alex and Morgan ready to embark on their journey!

When considering a class, I thought I should do the same thing as my husband, but in the end, we wanted to take different things. I signed up for Allison Haigler’s Wintertime Herbs and Soap Making, and he took the Blacksmithing class “It’s Holliday Time!” with Bill Price.  

Alex compared being at the Folk School to a magical Harry Potter campus, and we felt like we were in high school again. We enjoyed carpooling to the school each morning and running off to our classes for the day. Each day at lunch, he would pick me up at my class so we could walk together to the Dining Hall. I loved showing him the soap I had made that morning and hearing stories about his class during lunch.  

During orientation, our Executive Director Jerry Jackson said something that stuck with me the entire week: “We believe in the process, not perfection.” In past art and craft classes, I always got so frustrated. I would look at the person to the left’s work and compare it to mine. I would get so caught up in making my piece perfect that I couldn’t enjoy the process.  I studied theatre in college and got so caught up trying to get an A that it almost killed my passion. I decided to try something new this time and focus on enjoying the experience instead of perfecting the product. Re-teaching myself how to learn was the biggest gift of the week.  

This became especially true on our second day of soap-making class. The night before, I spent hours deciding what color and fragrance I would use for my soap, and the next morning, I was so excited to get to work. When it came down to it, I got the soap too thick and couldn’t do the correct pouring technique. I was beating myself up in the moment, but Allison rushed to the rescue and showed me a different technique. This “mistake” mixture turned out to be my favorite bar of soap, so in the end, we called it a happy accident.  

A woman reads directions and looks on as four students stand in a line mixing together herbs and oils
Mixing it up in the Lower Keith kitchen!
Five bars of green and white soap with an herb accouterment on top
Students sitting in a circle during Allison Haiger's soap-making class, Dec 4-10, 2022
Eight students posing and smiling in the Blacksmithing shop, holding up their certificates of completion

The warm, supportive smiles from the women in my class and the daily lunchtime blessings made me feel safe to take a risk in the classroom. The Folk School is truly a hidden gem in our area, one that I was lucky to grow up around and return to as an adult. For my husband Alex, who is new to this area, the Folk School helped him gain the sense of community he longed for since moving from the West Coast. You are never too young or old to learn something new. My husband and I have both decided to make a yearly ritual of attending a week-long class together at the Folk School. It enriched us both individually and brought us closer together.  

More photos from Morgan and Alex’s classes

Upcoming Soap-Making Classes

The Folk School offers soap-making classes year-round for beginners and advanced students alike. Handmade soaps make terrific gifts, especially to yourself, and natural soaps are kinder to your body. In our classes, learn how to incorporate the scents and textures you want in your own personalized soaps.

A colorful selection of handmade soaps
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